Barack Obama, Jan Schakowsky
Barack Obama, Jan SchakowskyReuters

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) was forced to apologize on Tuesday, after attacking a political opponent for being an "Orthodox Jew" at a radical leftist J Street conference.

At the conference, Schakowsky negatively painted Joel Pollak, her opponent in 2010 elections, by highlighting the fact that he is a religious Jew - a choice of words that the crowd responded to by booing Pollak.

In her comments, she criticized Pollak for being a "Jewish, Orthodox, Tea Party Republican."

The remarks can be seen in the following video, with the specific reference to Pollak starting at 52 seconds in.

Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, which is the largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization in the US, responded sharply to the remarks.

"Bias and prejudice have no place in our American political discourse," Diament reprimanded. "Many in the Orthodox Jewish community were troubled to see that U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky made remarks to the J Street conference which, at least implicitly, used the term ‘Orthodox’ Jew in a pejorative manner."

Describing the bias illustrated in the incident, he noted "in the context of her remarks and speaking to such an audience, the Congresswoman’s use of the term 'Orthodox' was a negative term – as negative for that audience as Tea Party and Republican."

"This morning, upon learning about her remarks, we spoke with Rep. Schakowsky and conveyed how offended we were by the apparent intent of her remarks," he added. "We appreciate the unequivocal apology issued by Representative Schakowsky in response to our concerns. We hope such an incident will not occur again."

Diament explained, "American Orthodox Jews are a diverse community in the United States and hold many views on policy issues. We are grateful to be citizens of a nation that provides us, and people of all faith communities, with such great freedom of religion and political conscience."

At the same J Street event, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Israel's "occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end."

J Street launched a campaign that critics termed "repugnant," against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Congress address earlier this month, in which the prime minister opposed the nuclear deal being formed with Iran, despite US President Barack Obama's opposition.

The leftist Jewish organization has also demanded that Israel negotiate with Hamas, the terrorist organization that calls for the genocide of Jews in its charter, and backed the Palestinian Authority's (PA) refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.